Sunday, 29 November 2009

In need of fun (day 8)

It is so appropriate that prompt no. 8 is all about fun (yup, I'm still persevering with the Blogging for Scrapbookers prompts...I'm so completely determined to finish this class!). This week my laptop and I have spent a whole lot of time wrestling with two essays and not making much progress. It is so frustrating, because I was really hoping to get them finished in time for the start of Shimelle's JYC class and the countdown to Christmas. Wishful thinking, sadly! Anyhoo, every cloud has a silver lining...because in between checking my word count and making extensive use of the thesaurus facility on my MacBook, I like to sneak online and spend a couple of moments 'reflecting' (or procrastinating).

When I was writing my dissertation, my procrastination method of choice was Puzzle Bobble. I was OBSESSED with it! And funnily enough, since handing in my dissertation in February of this year, I have been too traumatised to play it. These days, I mostly like to spend a few minutes faffing around on YouTube, but all in the name of legitimate 'research' (naturally). For the past couple of years I have been desperate to get a dog, and I've spent countless hours YouTubing various breeds. No. 1 on my list is a Shih Tzu (which I had growing up) - I've found some adorable videos and I'm excited to share them with you!

Every time I watch this it cracks me up!

Ridiculously cute.

I just loved this video!

Another favourite.

I hope you enjoy them! Here's hoping next week is a productive one...

Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Feeling thankful (day 7)

My first Thanksgiving, Memphis, TN, 2004

A very happy Thanksgiving to all of you over in the U.S. today! For the past couple of weeks the majority of my subscriptions in Google Reader have been discussing Thanksgiving - whether it be the preparations, the menu or the anticipation of being reunited with family and friends - and I have so enjoyed being able to share in the excitement! Mostly, however, I've loved reading about what everyone is thankful for. I think that it is so important to take a moment once in a while to appreciate the good things in our lives; a holiday dedicated to doing exactly that is even better!

Carving the turkey

I am thankful for so many things in my life, but I am particularly thankful for the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving firsthand while I lived in America (five years ago). I was fortunate enough to spend the holiday with the most amazing family...for me the Roses epitomised Southern hospitality, and the welcome that I received was unsurpassed! In all honesty, I was totally baffled by the meaning of Thanksgiving before I arrived in the U.S. For us in the UK, turkey is synonymous with Christmas, so the Thanksgiving meal somehow seems to pre-empt the festive season (only without presents). It was only when I was in Mrs. Rose's beautiful kitchen, with all of the incredible cooking smells and her extended family chipping in with the preparations, that I truly appreciated what Thanksgiving is all about. I loved how it brings people together. I loved seeing different generations share and enjoy family recipes. I loved trying sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping and pumpkin pie. I have such happy memories from my first Thanksgiving, and for that I am truly thankful.

Our combined purchases on Black Friday!

The day after Thanksgiving we woke up at 5 am to make the most of Black Friday - something I had never heard of...but I thought it was AWESOME! We went all over Memphis, stopping by Target, Best Buy and then spending the afternoon at Wolfchase Galleria. I especially loved the GAP sale. An exhausting and expensive day, but we had so much fun!

Thanksgiving feast 2009

Knowing that I love Thanksgiving, Jamie made a veritable feast this evening. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed carrot and swede, broccoli, stuffing and gravy. For dessert Jamie made a delicious sweet potato pie, which we had with Green & Black's Vanilla ice cream and clotted cream whilst watching two of my favourite episodes of Friends: The One Where Underdog Gets Away and The One With The Football (which just happen to be Thanksgiving themed!). I am so thankful for such a talented boyfriend!

Sweet potato pie!


Friday, 20 November 2009

Plotting and planning (day 6)

As I was walking home from the library yesterday evening I peered through the archways of Somerset House...and I was SO excited to see that the skating rink is open for the Christmas season! It is London's equivalent to the skating rink at the Rockefeller Center in NYC, and it just looked so festive and romantic. Luckily I had my camera with me from the night before (I almost never remember to put it in my bag), so I spent a little while wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere.

I loved seeing couples tentatively edging others whizzed by and others still stayed as close as physically possible to the barrier! I haven't been ice skating in years (something tells me I'll be the 'clinging to the barrier' type) but I can't wait to book tickets! It is open until 24 January, so if you're local or perhaps planning a day trip to London before Christmas it's definitely something to bear in mind! And, just because I L-O-V-E-D Christmas in New York, I thought I would include a picture of the Rockefeller Center as well:

Over the summer I spied the Belle & Boo Christmas postcards in Paperchase and made a mental note to get some for Christmas layouts/projects. I went in a few weeks ago and they had almost completely run out of the 'Happy Christmas' postcards! Major disappointment followed. After hunting down a member of staff (who I am pretty sure thought I was 100% crazy) and enquiring whether they expected to get any more in, she assured me that they get deliveries every week and that they would be replenished soon. I was not convinced. They had the Belle & Boo Christmas cards upstairs which had a much higher mark-up, so my cynical side assumed that the powers that be had simply decided to take them off the shelves. To cut what could be a very long story short, I popped in yesterday on the off-chance that the postcards might have been restocked...AND THERE THEY WERE!!

I just think that the illustrations are gorgeous - I love the muted colours and the innocence and simplicity of the sketches. I also love the Belle & Boo buttons and Christmas Boo cute! Definitely check out the Belle & Boo website, Etsy store and blog! I just can't get enough of it...

I want to decorate my teeny tiny craft corner with some creative inspiration, so I also picked up these postcards while I was in Paperchase. I was really inspired by an idea I found via Lushlee via another blog post which I haven't been able to track down (if it was yours, please let me know so I can give you credit!):

Such an inexpensive and inspiring way of making a bulletin board! I was thinking of using some Amy Butler or Cath Kidston fabric...Definitely a project that I can't wait to start in the New Year!

Speaking of which, prompt no. 6 for Blogging for Scrapbookers focused on 'setting goals.' I have imposed a moratorium on all things crafty this month so that I can concentrate on finishing my postgraduate essays due in the middle of December (although I am aiming to get them done by the beginning of the month). Although I spend a lot of time staring wistfully at my scrapbooking supplies, my 'time off' has actually given me some time to think about my hobby and how I want it to 'evolve' over the coming months. I say this because I have been struggling to finish an album that I started over the summer - I just can't get the tone right and I am so frustrated by the lack of coherence and consistency. It is possibly because the memories that I am committing to paper are particularly precious, and I think my standards are unreasonably high as a consequence. But, I have an idea (or several!):

My scrapping resolutions for 2010:
  1. I am going to invest in an Americans Crafts 12"x 12" D-ring album and some divided page protectors (with 4" x 6" slots for photos) and finish this album! The page protectors make the organisation and structure more consistent while simplifying the design. A D-ring album allows me to include other bits and pieces which would be difficult to include on a normal layout, such as acceptance letters, essays etc. (this album is supposed to record my 4 years at university).
2. I am going to start scrapping the 'present', as well as the 'past.' I want to get an 8.5" x 11" album (in my mind smaller is more manageable...although I'll probably regret saying this!) and do two layouts a week about what has happened during that week...whether it be something exciting or something unbelievably mundane.

3. I was so inspired by Natalia's beautiful Journal your Christmas ATC spinner in the latest issue of Scrapbook Inspirations. I really love the idea of creating a little spinner full of 'happy things' - little snippets of good news and exciting happenings, for example. It's sort of an embryonic idea at the moment, but I'm excited!

4. Upload my layouts to my blog!

Tonight I am going to an early Thanksgiving dinner, tomorrow evening we are going to see New Moon...and in between I have to write 3000 words. Help. But, if you made it to the bottom of this post, congratulations! It was a little longer than I expected....

Enjoy the weekend!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

'Tis the season (day 5)

I am officially so excited about Christmas! Last week there was such a transition in the seasons - it suddenly became cold, which was so refreshing after feeling uncomfortably lukewarm for most of October. I dug out my scarves and gloves; I finally decided that our pumpkins needed to be thrown out (it was a massive mistake naming them); I had my first Starbucks Gingerbread Latte in my first Red Cup of the Christmas season; I chose supplies for my 'Journal Your Christmas' album; I watched all of the Christmas decorations whizz past on Oxford Street as I sat on the bus on my way home; we ate stews and baked potatoes full of comfort food goodness; and we rounded off the week with a trip to Harrods to wander around Christmas World, which filled me with so much joy and lots of inspiration!

The Harrods Christmas department was totally overwhelming...I have never seen so many Christmas decorations in one place (apparently there are over 2000 for sale). The decorations that I did manage to take in were beautiful, and I have so many ideas for our Christmas tree this year. I dashed around taking as many pictures on my iPhone as I possibly could (with my favourite bits and pieces shown in the collage above). I do, however, have two absolute favourites that I want to share with you:

I was 100% obsessed with these super-sized lollipops! Don't they remind you of so many different Christmas films? But, they were almost £100 (which I thought was madness). I don't think they would be too difficult to make - perhaps the trickiest part would be finding a suitable 3D 'lollipop' background...

When I saw this Coca Cola ornament I almost collapsed with excitement! For me, Christmas officially starts when I hear 'the holidays are coming' on TV. In fact, Jamie and I joke that we epitomise the 'consumer' generation because we equate Coca Cola so strongly with Christmas! It is also the only time of year that I drink regular Coke (from the traditional glass bottle, of course). So we just had to buy it...and it will look very much at home next to my Starbucks Red Cup ornament from last year! I have a feeling you might be rolling your eyes right about now...

Anyway, I have once again fallen behind in Shimelle's class - life completely got away from me this week and I am only just starting to catch up! In prompt no. 5 - 'learning from your surroundings' - Shimelle talked a lot about the different ways in which a scrapbooker's home can be incorporated into their blog. I love seeing how other scrapbookers/bloggers choose to depict their lives online...some people are completely candid, such as (you can pretty much take a tour of their lovely home!), while others are more guarded, showing little snippets which give just enough away for the reader to get a small sense of what that person is like. However, what I love to see - and what I think is particularly revealing - is someone's scrap space/room. Whether it is minimalist or cluttered, organised or an 'organised mess,' what colours that person has chosen and what they have surrounded themselves with for is all so telling about not only what kind of scrapbooker that particular person may be, but about that person in general. So, I thought that for this prompt I would include a picture of my own scrap space, where I feel 100% at home and 100% happy. It may be the kitchen table, but it's my own little corner of the world!

Before I head off, I wanted to say another massive thank you to everyone that has taken the time to read my blog. I have been so unbelievably thrilled to receive such lovely comments...I am SO excited that I have 5 followers...and I have gone from 4 subscribers on Google Reader to 181. To those of you that have left comments, I promise that I will reciprocate in the coming few days as life slows down a little. I haven't been able to locate blogs for a couple of you, so please let me know if you have a private profile...I can't wait to stop by!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

You'd never guess....(day 4)

...that we live in London.

How the mundane can be misleading.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Five things (day 3)

Well, prompt no. 2 definitely forced me to step out of my comfort zone, but I am so excited about prompt no. 3 (yup, I'm a little behind) because it gives me an opportunity to talk about scrapbooking! Since starting my blog I haven't had much of a chance to upload my layouts because the lighting in the flat is so uncooperative. I have tried to photograph my pages in multiple spots, in different lighting and in artificial light, but it just isn't happening for me at the moment. This is sort of problematic since my blog is called Life & Layouts, but as you soon shall see, I have a plan.

Anyhoo, the image above is a collage of some of the things that have caught my eye recently. By way of explanation:
  1. Coveting the Slice Tag Maker Kit - I am a big fan of tools, and I think that this is such an awesome idea for scrapbooking layouts and cards. If money was no object I would snap this up in an instant (along with the Slice Tag Maker Design Card and these sparkly rims), but sadly I have put myself on a strict budget for the time being. It is definitely on my Christmas list though.
  2. Too cute! The Basic Grey Nook & Pantry collection - Cooking themes are cropping up all over the place at the moment (Cosmo Cricket's Early Bird and October Afternoon's Farm Fresh come to mind). I particularly love this line because the colours are so very pretty and versatile, but mostly because of the 'Cupcakes' patterned paper, which looks good enough to eat.
  3. Saving up for the Silhouette Digital Cutting Tool - Wow. This actually makes me giddy with excitement every time I read about it. Just the sheer amount of things that this machine can do is incredible...
  4. In my shopping basket: the Bo Bunny Kitchen Spice collection - I love the contrast of the rich autumnal colours of this line against the more delicate pinks and blues. And, because November is the dreaded month of essay-writing (7000 words), I have no time to do the accompanying scrapbook pages for each prompt. So, I was thinking instead that once I have submitted my essays at the beginning of December I would celebrate by making a Blogging for Scrapbookers mini book using this collection, which I have decided sort of matches my Blogger template.
  5. Big investment: Canon LiDE 200 Scanner -This blew my budget a little bit (or a lot) but I deemed it a necessity for two reasons. 1) I have hundreds of photos from 'back in the day' when you got your camera film printed which I want to archive/back-up and use for some projects that I have planned for next month. 2) No matter how hard I try, I'm never going to have the right light to photograph my layouts. A scanner is the next best thing, and I have it on good authority that the included software has a stitching's hoping...(it arrives next week).
In other news, I took a day off from reading and note-taking to go to the Craft Barn Mini Craft Fest today. The demonstrations were very inspiring - I had to stop myself from buying up a whole load of Dreamweaver stencils and embossing pastes after watching Carol and Cheryl, and I got so many ideas from watching Carole Cann's demonstration using Glimmer Mists. Sticking to the budget theme, I tried to be as restrained as possible in my purchases:And I can't wait to try them out! Tomorrow is another day of reading, catching up on some more of Shimelle's prompts if there's time, and eating some more of these:

As a reward for my hard work, I am very tempted to get a Starbucks Gingerbread seems so appropriate in these cold temperatures!

Wrap up warm and have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Blogging for scrapbookers: day 2

For today's prompt, Shimelle encouraged us to write a post on a topic that we want to scrapbook. It can be on anything at all from any period in our lives - either a recent experience or a distant but treasured memory. So, I decided to do both...not out of indecision but because I want to juxtapose two parallel experiences (if that makes sense).

The aim is to write the 'story' of the experience, much like doing the journaling for a layout. However - and despite my love of words - I am not especially good at journaling. I think that I become too absorbed in the 'creative process', and by the time I have stuck...unstuck...restuck...started all over again (you get the general idea) I am so exhausted that I'm pretty much happy for the photo to speak for itself, along with the prerequisite 'when', 'where', 'who', 'why' etc. So, for prompt no. 2 I wanted to challenge myself.

Whilst leafing through the November issue of Creating Keepsakes last night, the title 'Looking Back, Moving Forward' caught my eye. This perfectly encapsulates the message that I want my journaling for these photos to convey. Although it isn't entirely clear, both of these photos have something in common: graduation. But it doesn't stop there. Because in my mind graduation implies so much more than wearing a funny hat and a horribly unflattering gown (or, in the case of my high school graduation in Tennessee, beautiful white dresses with garlands in our hair). Graduation means change, success, climaxes, anti-climaxes, achievement, uncertainty, goodbyes and new beginnings. It is a day of elation and apprehension. And for that reason I want to document how I felt, more than the experiences themselves.

For me, there was an enormous sense of finality, but also a massive sense of relief and achievement. And there was a distinct sense of sadness that it was all coming to an end, which was tinged with a growing sense of uncertainty about what lies ahead. I spent so long working towards a goal, but 'anticlimactic' seems a strangely inadequate way of describing how it feels to reach that light at the end of the tunnel...only to emerge into a labyrinthine maze of confusion. I was both 'elated' and 'apprehensive'...anxious to enjoy every moment, but quietly saying a farewell to one phase of my life and trying to prepare myself for another.

The second time round, however, these feelings were not unfamiliar. I had definitely been here before. I remember being so desperately nervous about returning home from my gap year and starting uni, but four years later I had not only survived the experience...I had the absolute time of my life. And for me this was a huge reassurance because I knew I would be able to handle the next upheaval. So, I suppose that looking back has enabled me to move forward, which for me says a great deal about the value of 'sticking', 'unsticking', 'resticking', and 'starting all over again.'

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Blogging for scrapbookers: day 1

So, yesterday was the start of Shimelle's Blogging for Scrapbookers class, and I am already super excited and massively inspired by what she has prepared for us so far! In yesterday's prompt, 'paving our way to pastures new', Shimelle asked us to think about why we want to take this class and what we hope to achieve through it. As part of the prompt, she suggested that we photograph our workspace (or create a layout about it if we have enough time). I should say first that I don't really have a dedicated scrapping space. Instead - and much to the bemusement of my boyfriend - I have taken over the kitchen where I scrap, read, take notes, write essays, browse the internet...I suppose you could say that it is a 'multi-functional' space with the added advantage of being a stone's throw from the kettle. And although I would one day LOVE to have my own scrapping room, I quite like the fact that the differing facets of my life pivot around the kitchen table.

In terms of my intentions and objectives for this class, I have several. I want to:
  • Learn how to get my head round HTML (which completely baffles me) and, by extension, how to personalise my blog and really make it my own.
  • Connect with other scrapbookers and experience a small part of the online scrapbooking community that has emerged in recent years.
  • Document both my scrapbooking (and other) creations, as well as meaningful experiences that will inevitably be turned into layouts in the not-so-distant future!
I am hoping to do a post about prompt no. 2 later on today, but it all depends on how much reading I manage to get done....

And, most importantly of all, I really want to thank those of you stopping by! Yesterday I received my very first comment and I also found out that Life & Layouts has 4 subscribers - I was SO unbelievably thrilled and excited, so thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog...I hate to end on a cliche, but it really makes it all worth it!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

All Hallows' Eve

I'm so sad that Halloween is over! Yesterday was a flurry of activity - I pottered around in the morning making the cinnamon cream cheese icing for my yummy pumpkin cupcakes (inspired by the very talented Shimelle) and spent some time fiddling around with yet another Halloween project. In the afternoon my Mum and I met up for the most incredible Serendipity-style ice cream sundaes at Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly (which you can see above), where we also wanted to look at the beautiful Christmas decorations that they already have on display. Afterwards we went for a quick wander around the Harrods Pet Kingdom, where we saw some adorable Shih Tzu and Chihuahua puppies! It was especially sad for us because our 17 year old Shih Tzu died earlier this year, and these puppies bore an uncanny resemblance to him when he was just a little puppy. In the evening Jamie and I finally got around to carving our pumpkins after hauling them back from the Whole Foods Market in Camden on Friday...the lack of a car is a definite disadvantage in London. Anyhoo, this is the result:

From the left: Country 'Pumpkin' (designed and named by Jamie), Winifred (named after my favourite of the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus), Count 'Pump-cula' (also designed and named by Jamie), and the little guy in the front is called Casper (as in the ghost), because he just looks so happy.

Jamie carved all but the one in the middle, which I very ambitiously started at 8pm and immediately regretted five minutes later. I don't think I scooped out the pulp properly, and the pumpkin was way too thick to carve using a little precision saw that I found in Waitrose. So Jamie heroically stepped in and we pushed and pulled and tugged until it was eventually finished! Once we got the tea lights inside I was so glad that we perserved because they all looked so awesome lined up below our Halloween display. In honour of Halloween we watched Hocus Pocus whilst eating A LOT of junk food - by the time we started watching Interview with a Vampire I was definitely in a sugar-induced coma, which is probably a good thing because the bits of the film that I saw were just a little creepy...

Before settling down to gorge ourselves we nipped out for a few minutes to (randomly) watch the BT Tower. Over the past couple of days it has been beautifully lit up - complete with Batman-esque spotlights - and every time I have walked past it at night I have unsuccessfully tried to photograph it. During one of my attempts last night, a guy walking past us mysteriously said to stand under the Tower at 8.50pm, so Jamie and I interrupted our pumpkin carving and dutifully stood underneath it. And this is what we saw:

It turns out that yesterday marked 1000 days until the start of the 2012 Olympics in London, and to celebrate the BT Tower got a makeover and a very impressive fireworks display. It was so cool to watch, but sad that it hadn't been particularly well advertised - there were only a handful of people there. I should also thank Jamie for taking the photos (I still had serious camera shake despite his best efforts to change all of the settings on my camera).

And, finally, a couple of the Halloween projects that I have been working on this week:

Again, not ideal photos! But I'm so pleased with the end result. I got the idea for these hanging panels from the Imaginisce Idea Gallery (click on Spooky Town for some more Halloween ideas). I L-O-V-E Imaginisce papers - although I'm not always initially attracted to the designs, the heavyweight cardstock and the 'glossy spot UV accents' (as described by the Craft Emporium) add so much dimension to whatever it is they are used for. For this particular project, I used the Boo Buttons, Bestitched, Boo Whooo?, Fraidy Cat and Trick or Treat papers - all from the Craft Emporium - with some Bazzill cardstock for each background. The accents are all cut out from the patterned papers and attached with foam pads. I used repositionable glue dots for the photos in case I want to switch the photos next year. For the corners, I used my Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper and to make the holes for the ribbon I used my Crop-A-Dile Big Bite (both purchased from the Craft Barn).

For this quick and easy project, I used the Pink Paislee Twilight collection, also from the Craft Emporium. I found this "spooky" card in the 'Pink Projects' section of the Pink Paislee website, but it is also worth checking out their blog, which is showcasing some really amazing ideas at the moment. This card was literally so easy to make - I varied the design just a little bit, using two pieces of ric rac from my stash instead of the suggested twine, and I cut out the skull and the crow (along with the nested circles) using my Slice machine and the Spook Alley design card (purchased from the Craft Barn).

Well, that pretty much sums up our All Hallows' Eve! Today was spent watching Saturday's X Factor on Sky Plus with a Starbucks Hazelnut Hot Chocolate, which seemed appropriate for such a miserable day. I couldn't believe how many leaves covered the roads and pavement on my way to the gym this evening - it's amazing how quickly the season changes in London!